Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Garmin GPSmap 296

Terrain comes to portable GPS

I count myself lucky that I’m allowed to fly with virtually all the new portable GPSs, and I’m just as amazed as you are when avionics manufacturers continue to find new worlds to conquer. Just when it seems there’s nothing new left to be done, someone does it.
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As you might expect, the 296 offers a plethora of routes (up to 50 of them with as many as 300 waypoints each), user waypoints and a multitude of ways to display its information. There are even GPS overlays of approaches. Indeed, the system is so sophisticated, you could spend hours learning all its capabilities. Fortunately, you don’t have to unless you want to.

Garmin always has recognized the need to keep its products user-friendly, and the 296 lives up to that standard. Basic operation is almost silly simple, and anyone with a smattering of computer smarts or experience with other GPS units should catch on fast. Even if you’re not that familiar with a multi-function GPS, the Garmin GPSmap 296 is easy to operate, designed for everyone, from seasoned pros to the pilot whose last known position was number one for takeoff.

Despite all its features, the Garmin GPSmap 296 remains a compact package, about the size of two television remotes back to back. You can mount it to your airplane’s yoke or to a convenient beanbag if you plan to jump between airplanes (or cars or boats, for that matter). Either way, it’s tiny and talented. In the case of the 296, Garmin’s motto could very well be “Fly small. Smile big.”


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